North America has waited four months since the EU release. Was it worth it?
Delays and more delays have plagued the history of this new Yoshi title since its announcement. It’s seen playable demos at two different E3s and made it almost half way to a third before finally releasing in North America. But I have a lot of practice waiting and I enjoyed those demos at E3 two years in a row, so I was still pretty eager for this game. Good Feel’s track record with Kirby’s Epic Yarn gave me hope that Yoshi would be its spiritual successor, and it many respects, I was given more than I’d hoped for. While it unfortunately wasn’t a perfect experience, it is still well worth the money.
The story was simple enough to keep the playful feel the art style promises while adding its own appeal. This time, Yoshis’ home on Craft Island is under attack and his yarn friends unraveled and their yarn stolen by the evil Kamek. Two Yoshis manage to escape and go after Kamek, who has dropped yarn pieces of their friends in the worlds surrounding Craft Island. While they knit their friends back together one-by-one, they must keep following Kamek, defeating him and all the lackeys he throws their way until everyone is saved.
Admittedly, for the rage-quit enthusiast, Yoshi’s Woolly World might seem wholly unfulfilling. You won’t spend days on a single level, failing time and time again like platformers of the past. Bosses are nothing to write home about and level designs are not very technically challenging. Developers even opted out of the timed levels and limited lives that you expect to see from the platformer genre. You can spend hours on one level with no penalty, and while it’s still possible to die, you’ll only find yourself back at the last previous checkpoint, no matter how many times it happens. And there is even a whole mode of gameplay (Mellow Mode) that makes it even easier if it’s still too hard. No, instead it’s the collection aspect that makes up most of the game’s challenge. Level designs clearly focus more on exploration, on finding secrets and testing your environment until you find everything, as opposed to giving you a learning curve to test your skill. The goal to get every level’s bonuses and every unlockable Yarn Yoshi design drives this game rather than giving you a reason to come back after you’ve beaten the story, and while I found it enjoyable, it’s truly hit or miss with the larger audience.
I began playing Yoshi with the gamepad and the controls were very smooth, easy and enjoyable, even adjustable in some respects. But playing with the gamepad didn’t hold much appeal for long after playing with the Wii controller. While the gamepad’s layout made it easier to move while firing yarn balls, I much preferred the ability to freely tilt my controller for my firing lines as opposed to waiting for it to cycle to the angle I needed. Gamepad? No rapid fire. Wii controller? Throwing yarn exactly where I wanted at the drop of a hat.
Besides the focus on exploratory play in a platformer, the other standout component to Yoshi’s Woolly World is exactly what you would expect: the artistry. In some ways, I appreciated the lower difficulty of the game as a whole for the opportunity I had to delight in the game’s charming atmosphere displayed beautifully with the Wii U’s graphics. Visually, Woolly World never slacks, carrying the details from the level backgrounds and animations into the overworld and menu screens, and pairing wonderfully with a musical score that perfectly walks the line between playful and epic. I found myself wanting more to the game just to keep knitting together cute Boos and Chain Chomps, and seeing crocheted flowers bloom into view.
Yarn Yoshi designs are one of two uses in this game for amiibo. Tapping amiibo to the NFC reader unlocks special designs of Yarn Yoshis, but not all existing amiibo are compatible. Not even all Smash Bros. amiibo, so this didn’t do a lot for me. The other use is “Double Yoshi”. In solo mode, you can tap a Yarn Yoshi amiibo into the game to play a double to use. He does nothing but mirror your moves, which—not surprisingly—doesn’t work well. But he’s much more use as a constant source of yarn. I spent all my time carrying this little guy around in yarn ball form and that was it. It is interesting to note that he can also serve as an extra life if he remains safe when you’ve fallen off a cliff or taken one too many hits. Your player will switch to this double while the additional Yoshi returns in a flying egg to fight another fight.
But in the end, without painstakingly collecting everything there is to get, Yoshi can feel like it stops short. The easier difficulty definitely contributes to this, because for those who don’t feel like a completionist run, breezing through six worlds doesn’t take much time at all. There are only a few obstacles in various levels that will slow your roll, but only for a few tries at most for the average gamer.
On the other hand, for the collector, this game is plenty long and fulfilling. Each level has four ranks to achieve stars in, three for your collectibles and one for full health, the last being fairly difficult in many cases. Each world has a special level to give based on finding all the smiley flowers for that world, and then four ranks still within that level to star. And so on. As I said before, this is definitely the real challenge, and also, the real length. It’s very rewarding to keep finding that last stamp time and time again, plus adding to your collection of Yarn Yoshi designs overall.
Yoshi’s Woolly World is game that doesn’t pretend to be anything that it isn’t. It capitalizes on cute and charming and creates a worthwhile game with plenty to look forward to. Its fatal flaw is only that its appeal runs short for gamers who look for the complexity and skill challenge Nintendo’s other platformers offer.